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I took this photograph while on Venice's vaporetti in Venice, Italy. Venice's vaporetti (singular - vaporetto), or water buses, are the public transportation of Venice. Vaporetti take visitors along the main canals, to the islands, and around the lagoon. Although often crowded, they are by far the least expensive way to get around (other than walking). If you're visiting Venice, sooner or later you'll probably find yourself on a vaporetto.

While gondolas were once regularly used by Venetians, especially of the upper classes, today vaporetti have become the main form of water transportation in Venice. A couple hundred years ago there were about 10,000 gondolas but today there are only about 500.

A gondola is flat and made of wood. It's 11 meters long, weighs 600 kg and is hand built in special workshops called squeri of which there are still a few today. Gondolas are seen in festival parades and in regate or rowing competitions.

What to Expect from your Gondolier
•Gondoliers must be officially licensed.
•Gondoliers must wear black pants, a striped shirt, and closed dark shoes. They usually have a special hat but don't always wear it.
•Singing is not a requirement for a gondolier. Although some may sing, it's best not to expect it. Some may also give information during the ride.
•Gondoliers stand up to row and use only one oar as this is the best way to row through the narrow canals of Venice.
•If you want to go to a particular place, be sure to discuss it with the Gondolier before the ride.
•Most gondeliers speak some English.
•It is extremely rare for a woman to become a gondolier.

A gondola is like a luxury car. Although black is the official color, many are ornately decorated and have comfortable seats and blankets. You can stroll around and look for one that suits your fancy.

Traghetto Crossing on the Grand Canal - Cheap Gondola Alternative
If all you really want to do is get into a gondola, you can take a traghetto across the Grand Canal. A traghetto is an empty gondola used to ferry passengers back and forth across the canal. While it might not be so romantic, it's much cheaper (currently 50 Euro cents) and you get a great view of the Grand Canal. Take a look at this video of crossing the Grand Canal on Traghetto Santa Sofia.